Dr Martens switches to ‘relentless’ focus on product marketing as profits tumble 43%

The footwear company saw revenue and profits tumble as it looks to change its marketing focus from “storytelling” to a product-led approach as it looks to recover ground in the US.

Dr Martens will move away from a “storytelling” approach to its marketing and instead “relentlessly” focus on product marketing as it looks to recover from a damaging set of FY24 results.

The footwear brand has seen its global pre-tax profits tumble to £97m – down by 42.9% year-over-year, something its current-CEO Kenny Wilson, who will step down next year, blames on “weak” consumer demand in the USA.

Its total revenue for the year fell by 12% to £877m, down from just over £1bn in 2022/23, while sales of boots in the US dropped by 17% in the face of what the brand describes as a “challenging” boots market.

Its struggles have prompted it to overhaul how it presents its marketing, in particular in the Americas market. The business pointed to embedding a “new leadership team” in the Americas that led to its marketing and trading execution not being “as strong as it could be”.

Under the direction of chief brand officer Ije Nwokorie, who will replace Wilson as CEO in 2025, its autumn/winter marketing will be “lead and be dominated by boots” with the marketing team being “reorganised” to be a product-led marketing function, “centred around icons”.

This is in line with what Nwokorie told Marketing Week in April when he said that marketing can “get in the way of product” and that Dr Martens needed to make more of its unique product proposition.

“If you make something unique… why would you talk about something else?” he said at the time.

Dr Martens to emulate European marketing approach for struggling US businessAs a result, marketing spend will increase in the US as a percentage of revenue to help drive brand awareness, which has remained “flat” at 73%. At the same time, there has been a “meaningful decline” in consideration. The business will adopt an “always-on” product marketing approach to its “icons” with marketing spend focused on “mid- to lower-funnel activity” to drive consideration.

Brand awareness in its home market of the UK saw a “marginal decline” but still leads the group at 92% while there was a small increase in brand awareness in its key EMEA markets of Germany, Italy and Spain by around 2% to 3%.

The poor results have led the business to look for savings and it is targeting a £20-25m reduction in operating costs, with savings found from “organisational efficiency and design, better procurement and operational streamlining”.

CEO Wilson said: “We are clear that we need to drive demand in the USA to return to growth in FY26 onwards and are executing a detailed plan to achieve this, with refocused and increased USA marketing investment in the year ahead.

“I am confident that the actions we are taking as we enter this year of transition will put us in good shape for the years ahead.”